Children & Media Use
How much screen time should my children have?
The recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are:
- NO screen time for children under the age of 2
- No more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming each day for children over age 2
Why limit screen time for children when there are so many great programs?
Crucial Brain Development
During the early years, especially up until the age of two, children’s brains are developing quickly. It is during this time that children are learning all about the world around them. They are learning to make connections with things and people. When children sit and stare at a TV or computer, crucial brain development is affected. Babies need to experience the real world by being read to, playing and manipulating objects. They also need to learn to connect with people so that they can develop socially and emotionally.
What about educational TV or videos for infants? Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatricians has shown that when children sit in front of a screen, their brains get rewired and this could lead to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The fast pace of TV and videos becomes normal to a baby’s brain. This overstimulation can lead to ADHD when the children enter elementary school. So turn off the TV for your baby. Let them learn by exploring for themselves.
As children grow and develop quality television and computer programs can be introduced. However, be careful that children do not only sit in front of a screen. They need to be playing, doing their homework, reading, and interacting with friends and family members. Television and computers can be great sources of learning and entertainment, but use them in moderation.
Too much screen time often leads to childhood obesity. Children need at least 1 hour of active time each day. The habit of coming home from school/daycare to watch TV or play video games often doesn’t allow children to get the recommended amounts of physical activity. In addition, children who sit in front of a screen often snack. This leads to even greater caloric intake, usually of unhealthy foods, without the benefit of burning it off. Most video games that children play are sedentary. If your children do play video games, choose games in which they can get up and move their bodies to exercise more than their fingers. There are great games that encourage physical activity and playing with others. Encourage your children to play those games and join in on the fun!
How to Decrease Screen Time
So what should I do if my children are already experiencing too much screen time? Here are a few ideas for cutting down on media use.
- Keep TV and computers out of children’s room.
- Turn off TV or other media devices during meal time.
- Turn off TV while doing homework.
- Keep the TV off when it is not being used. The background noise may cause listening and problem solving issues in children. They may also have more difficulty with impulse control.
- Encourage other activities such as playing outside, reading books, or playing board games together.
- Set a good example by limiting your own screen time.
For more information: Email Cheryl Kaczor, M.S., WVU Extension Service, Families and Health Agent.